What Does It Mean to be a Professional Game Master?

The term “professional” is open to interpretation. It simply means different things to different people. Sometimes it’s met with an air of deference and respect. Sometimes it leads to immediate suspicions of wrong-doing. Other times it simply stands as a vague and equivocal statement of self-worth. So what does it actually mean to advertise oneself as a Professional Game Master?

How Do We Define Professional?

A Game Master is a necessary role at the table for many of the complex fantasy role-playing games that have been flooding the market since the creation of Dungeon’s and Dragons in the late seventies, but what (if anything) makes that Game Master a professional?

Definitions of professional
What is a Professional Game Master?

Most who consider this question will tend to settle on the second set of definitions from the list above. This burgeoning new field of endeavor certainly doesn’t qualify among the traditional “learned” professions (Theology, Medicine, and the Law). The amount of study required to work in this role simply doesn’t approach the prerequisites of the “big three,” and few if any of the technical and ethical standards that have been established for those professions would apply to a Professional Game Master. However, the concept of a Professional GM does involve an amateur activity in which an individual may engage for financial gain and as a permanent career. There are thousands of Game Masters around the world who have been doing that very thing for decades.

Cthulu Character Sheet
Image by Katrina_S from Pixabay

What Makes a Game Master Worth Paying?

Supply and Demand Curve with Surplus and Shortage

Because the supply of game masters (Q1)is relatively low compared to the demand for TTRPG opportunities (Q3), the equilibrium price for a paid GM is higher than it’s ever been. Even paid GMs are finding it difficult to keep up with demand . . . that is, if they meet certain standards.

What Standards Set a Quality Professional GM Apart From the Crowd?

As with just about any other abstract business idea, there tend to be some serious misconceptions about what customers of paid GMs are truly seeking in return for their hard-earned money. In reality, it’s not about fancy voice acting, or a creative writing background, or some sort of celebrity status. All of those things are worthy aspirations that can help a GM hone the craft, but they don’t keep customers paying the invoices. Instead, the more important factors come down to just a few basic business principles. This important truth could be the impetus for a dozen additional articles, but I’ll settle for focusing on a few highlights.

When people are paying for a product or service, they want to believe that the team of people behind that product or service is experienced, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. When these three characteristics exist in abundance, one very important quality emerges: consistency. One-time customers become repeat customers because of consistent quality.

Notice that consistency is created by a team of professionals, not a single individual. No matter how good a GM is at creating an immersive and enjoyable game experience, there are limitations to how much one person can do. There are only so many hours in the day. A Professional Game Master who must also take on the roles of marketing, invoicing, bookkeeping, community-building, networking, product development, market analysis . . . you get the point.

At Next-Level Gaming, the focus of our team is consistency. Our customers know that we’re going to bring a hard-working, experienced Game Master to the table each and every time. And that’s a service that has proven to be worth paying for.

Fantasy bridge
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Continue to follow here on Medium for additional articles about the Tabletop Renaissance and the opportunities that exist in this space.

Next-Level Gaming is an organization of Professional Game Masters from across the U.S. If you’re interested in being a part of one of our weekly drop-in games, or if you would like to learn more about becoming a part of our team, please contact us at Next-Level D&D or at StartPlayingGames.



Drew Merritt is a Professional Game Master and Co-Founder of the company Next-Level Gaming.

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Drew Merritt

Drew Merritt is a Professional Game Master and Co-Founder of the company Next-Level Gaming.